Imagine waking up to a warm cup of coffee and a clear view of rolling Western hills, grazing animals, and mountain peaks off in the distance.
If that sounds like your kind of morning, you could use a getaway to a genuine cattle ranch. Not only do Wyoming’s many guest ranches and dude ranches let visitors play cowboy for a week, but they also offer activities and amenities to suit all types of travelers — not to mention postcard-caliber scenery around every bend.
What Is a Guest Ranch and What Is a Dude Ranch?
Before you plan your next great cowpoke adventure in Wyoming, you may ask yourself: what is the difference between a guest ranch and a dude ranch? The answer lies in how dirty you’d like to get your hands, so to speak.
Typical Guest Ranch Vacations
A guest ranch vacation will often include all amenities (a beautiful room and tasty meals) coupled with activities that capture the authentic feel of the Western outdoors, such as horseback riding, archery, and sometimes hunting. A dude ranch, on the other hand, allows guests to experience daily life as a rancher. For example, you may stay in a cozy cabin, be tasked with chores around the ranch, or participate in a real cattle drive.
A guest ranch vacation will immerse you in a cowboy’s environment, while a dude ranch stay will allow you to work alongside them, trying your hand at their regular duties.
Reasons You Should Be Enjoying a Wyoming Guest Ranch
Each guest and dude ranch has its own activities to offer, which are different across the board. When booking your Wyoming getaway, decide what elements of ranch life you’d like to experience, and then research until you find the one that will deliver for you. We have put together a short list that can help.
1. You Can Experience Real Cowboy Life
If you’ve always been fascinated by Western lore and cowboy culture, visiting a dude or guest ranch will let you roll up your sleeves and join the adventure — from participating in real cattle drives and pitching in at the stables to long, peaceful rides through scenic valleys.
The warm, friendly folks at Kara Creek Ranch in Sundance specialize in making you feel like a natural-born wrangler, offering hands-on experiences sorting, driving, and even branding cattle. Beyond that, Wyoming is home to the first-ever dude ranch: Eatons’ Ranch in Wolf. The ranch first flung open its barn doors in 1904, and it doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
2. Enjoy Options to Suit Every Vacation Style
When looking for the right guest or dude ranch, you won’t find any one-size-fits-all experiences in Wyoming. No matter your budget, interests or group size, there’s a ranch for you. Are you traveling with kids? Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Laramie is one of many guest ranches that offer fun and educational programs for kids as young as six.
Guest Ranches for Adults
Seeking a grown-up getaway? Specific ranches host adults-only weeks during the summer or provide romantic perks like massages, hot-air balloon rides and all the privacy you’re seeking.
3. Horseback Riding is Only the Beginning
A love of horses is pretty much a prerequisite for a dude or guest ranch stay, but it’s far from the only activity available. Due to the state’s rich natural landscape, Wyoming ranches are well-suited for all types of outdoor excitement.
Venture beyond the stable at Crossed Sabres Ranch in Cody to enjoy world-class fly-fishing streams, river rafting, hiking and biking — plus plenty of stargazing and leisure time around the campfire. If you’re bringing little ones along, don’t miss Lazy L&B Ranch in Dubois, where they have an entire kid’s program stacked with child-friendly fun like leatherwork, roping and even a petting zoo.
4. They Can Be a Secret Foodie Paradise
A Wyoming guest ranch vacation is all about enjoying the outdoors and working up an appetite, but if you think it’s just pork and beans out here, you haven’t visited our foodie-friendly ranches.
At Paradise Guest Ranch in Buffalo, feast on gourmet meals enhanced with locally sourced ingredients and a stellar wine program — mixed with a hearty helping of barbecue cookouts, buffet lunches and s’mores, of course.
For the health-conscious rancher, consider SonRise Grass Creek Guest Ranch & Supper Club in Thermopolis, where the menu is carefully curated to be as wholesome and nourishing as it is delicious.
5. They’re Perfect for Reconnecting with Family
Getting the whole gang together for a getaway can be tricky, but family guest ranch vacations in Wyoming can be an excellent solution. For example, Lost Creek Ranch & Spa in Moose is one of many guest ranches that offer all-inclusive rates based on the number of visitors you have, so your food, lodging and activities can all be conveniently covered for one price.
Not to mention, for one glorious family trip, you can all step away from your devices and really recharge. R Lazy S Ranch in Teton Village trades TVs and social feeds for good, old-fashioned fun, like evening campfires, softball games and talent shows.
6. They’re Ethical and Eco-Conscious
If green destinations top your list of vacation must-sees, look no further than a trip to the wilds of Wyoming. Conserving our incredible natural resources is the Western way, and guest and dude ranches play an essential role in environmental conservation.
Working with local leaders to ensure their daily operations make the least impact on the environment, Flat Creek Ranch in Jackson operates with a focus on sustainability, earning them a BEST (Business Emerald Sustainability Tier) program certification.
Similarly, The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch in Shell shares this eco-conscious sensibility, from utilizing catch-and-release fishing to rotational grazing to raising their livestock healthily and stress-free.
7. Experience Luxury the Guest Ranch Way
You might be the type of traveler who prefers luxe accommodations to gritty ranch life, but what if we told you that you could have a luxury guest ranch getaway in Wyoming? At Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, you can take advantage of cooking and baking classes, sound healing, extensive spa services and world-class amenities like you’d find at a high-end hotel.
If wellness is the name of your game, The Lodge & Spa at Three Forks Ranch in Savery will make you feel right at home. From thorough consultations and Mayo Clinic experts to yoga and massage, there’s no experience quite like it.